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Becoming Footsteps. Building Your Legacy.

“Being the best when the stakes are highest.”

I had a conversation with a young coach after the Conference Championship. He wanted to know the answer to getting a team to perform their best at the right time. The more I reflect on that, the more I know that there is no one answer that makes that happen. Was it your 400 Meters @ 5k Pace? Was it the focus on tempo and aerobic paces? Was it the challenging courses in the early phase of the season? There are too many variables.

Was it you? What was it that inspired Joey D. to over-pace his practices this week? I talked to him about slowing down in practice and saving it for the race. He didn’t slow down, and ran the best race of his life, with a 3 minute jump from 2 weeks ago. And he wasn’t alone. Aidan did the same; so did Angelina and Mia. Ava and Charley. Sabrina and Liam. We saw everyone on both our teams perform their best in the top race of their season—every runner, every performance demonstrated why we are Unbreakable; why we are World Famous.

My cross-country lens is long. I have seen many runners and many teams. You often hear me talk about footsteps and legacies—it is not just storytelling. To be a distance runner requires you to study the past and know your opponents. It is about finding what works and adjusting when you go out too fast and finish too slow. It is about being smart about your choices and decisions. The top runners use their races as stumbling stones with lessons in every step.

“Fast course or Fast Runners”

Developing runners blame the environment for their results. The course was wet; it was cold. My legs were tired. I went out too fast. Those are the runners who say after the race that “I could have done better…” The mature runner races the race that is there. He and she recognize that every runner is battling circumstances, and everyone has challenges. To win, you must put those challenges in your back pocket and focus on the race ahead. That is the difference between champions and the others. When you ran past me, I saw in your eyes and your strides the determination and focus of champions. I saw it in your pre-race drills, in your faces on the line, in the way you stood. And the results show that you were ready.

Look at some of your growth over the past 3 weeks:

30 second gains: Grey, MacKenly, Levi and Lucas; Ashlin

40 second gains: Alaysa and Keegan; Dom and Erik

50 second gains: Lee and Evan

1 minute gains: Charlie Liam and Cole; Arianna, Monica, Lilly, Mya, and Ella

1 minute and 30 second gains: Ava, Mia, Angelina, and Sabrina

2 minute gains: Aiden and Ashley

2:45 second gain: Joey

3:20 second gain: Krishae

You control your destiny, your times, your results. If you can conceive of the possibilities, you can work to achieve something that you once thought was impossible.

“Your footsteps echo through the community”

One of my coaching mentors, Coach Donovan, always finds time to express his appreciation for your running. I can count on his congratulatory email (full of multiple exclamation points, quotations, and capital letters) each time I come home from a meet. I want to share with you how he viewed your legacy races yesterday.

“WOW Jim!!! CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU AND YOUR TEAMS !!!!.... W O W!!! W O W!!! W O W!!! What can I say ……. First, let me congratulate you and your “TEAMS” on their FANTASTIC AND PROBABLY Historical wins today!!!

Congratulations to you and the GIRLS for such a COLOSSAL win!!! NOT AN EASY THING TO DO IN ANY MEET …… LET ALONE A CHAMPIONSHIP MEET!!!!! …… and the boys found out why we call it a TEAM sport!!!

Each and every boy in the first five …... “HAD” …to place (at least) where they did in order to get the…. “ONE” …. point they needed to win the team championship!!!!!!

I am so excited for you and ALL OF THE MANDARIN CROSS COUNTRY TEAM MEMBERS!!!!!!!!!! I am VERY proud to be on the Mandarin Mustang side and not trying to compete against you all (as I once had to do)!!!

Thanks for talking me into going over there (thirteen years ago) and working alongside of you and to be a part of the MANDARIN MUSTANG running program!!! I am SO VERY PROUD to be a small part of the program!!! I am very proud to be a Mandarin Mustang!!!!!! “

Coaches and those who know our sport recognize excellence and understand exactly what you did to get where you are today.

“Time to take ten.”

Enjoy and embrace your performances, then put them away. The past informs us, but we must look ahead. New challenges, more championships, more races. You all have earned the legacy title. The boys are part of a 4-year championship run; the girls 6 years. Time to get to work.

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